Samhain Publishing, $5.50, ISBN 978-1-61923-172-6
Rick first spots Minarette in a club, shortly before she punches a jealous woman who struck first, breaking that woman’s nose and two upper teeth in the process. It is love at first sight. Even when the people in the town begin to vanish one by one, even when he sees his friend get his blood drained dry by what seems like a vampire… it is always Minarette, even if it means the death of him. Perhaps literally, heh.
I don’t want to reveal too much about Ghost Heart, so let me just say that this is a love story, but it’s a love story with a twist on the vampire thing. Here, you are not a vampire – you have a Ghost Heart, and unlike the usual vampires, you won’t have forever. Unless you do… things, let’s just say, you are on borrowed time, as your end comes pretty quickly and eventually you will become a ghost, phased out of existence. And yes, Minarette has a Ghost Heart, although it seems to Rick that she is at odds with her own people. Will there be a happy ending here?
John Palisano has written a gorgeous story here. While this is not a conventional romance, Minarette’s limited time left adds a layer of poignancy and urgency to the whole thing, and the author’s narrative style, while simple in its core, comes together to create a story that is atmospheric and lush. Reading this one is like reading old school vampire stories by Nancy Collins and such, although this one is actually far less explicit than those stories. Still, despite the lack of explicit sexy stuff here, I find the story pretty erotic in a dark and deliciously unsettling way.
Wait, you may be wondering by now why this one doesn’t get four oogies from me. Well, it’s like this – by the time the story enters its final leg, I have no idea why Rick will just keep holding on to this “love” of his when he’s getting nothing but plenty of beating and worse in return. He’s not even getting laid in the conventional way, so he doesn’t even have that as an excuse. He’s like that guy who happily keeps putting his hand out to be smashed by a hammer just because he likes some girl. Why? I have no idea, and because I have no idea, the whole premise of the story starts to wear thin, and my interest in the story begins to wane.
I suppose it’s a good thing that my attention begin to stray only late in the story, if that’s any consolation.
Anyway, I believe Ghost Heart is worth a look, especially if you like those old school vampire stories pre-dating Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles – a time when vampires, still angst-ridden and melancholic, are at the same time allowed to be mean and bad while looking all tragic and sexy in the process. I personally find the pay-off a bit disappointing, but I hope it works better for you. This one captures the mood and feel of that old-style magic so well, I quite like it despite everything.